DIY Thanksgiving Definition Art + Spice Painting

It is November right? I love November. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, the weather is typically amazing, gingerbread, apple, and pumpkin goodies abound, and it is my birthday month.

But most exciting for me today, is it means I can now share with you my Thanksgiving Definition Art.

I have been seeing definition art all around the web, and have fallen in love with it so I thought I would combine a very Thanksgiving word “thankful” together with my favorite fall background- SPICE PAINTING. Yes. Spices.

Spices and fall just go together. Spiced Apple Cider. Pumpkin pie. Gingerbread. Spice Painting. See?

Note: This tutorial has two very distinct parts, either one which can be used on their own. 

Part 1- Spice Painting
This technique creates a really gorgeous depth of colors and textures. And it is easy- basically you get to make a mess with spices, paint, and mod podge.

Don’t let the amount layers intimidated you, they are very quick. The longest part is waiting between a few of the layers for them to dry (or mostly dry).

First, paint a background color on a canvas or piece of wood, I have done turquoise which gives it an interesting pop, but I did grey and purple as this one. Why both colors? Because I ran out of the grey.

Then after that dries (mostly… ) paint it white.

Ok, here is the fun parts. Take some spices and make a mess.

No, like this.

I did cinnamon, paprika, turmeric, cardamom, and cayenne, all different colors. Nothing too dark though, so that the writing (or other design) on top will pop out. No saffron please! As if I needed to say that. 

Take a grocery bag, ball it up in your hand. And attack the painting. Take out all your frustration. Use your nails, protected by the baggy, to dig deep into the paint so the bottom color will show through.

Use steel wool to smooth it out some and distress the edges.

After the paint dries for a few minutes, paint it with a layer of mod podge, and sprinkle areas of it with more spices, and only gently rub them  in. The first time the spices will become a bit of a blur, so this makes a few spots stand out. Don’t cover the whole painted, just do areas.

After that dries, add one more layer of mod podge (I actually used the homemade version) to have a smooth surface and keep it from smelling like a confused pumpkin pie.

Now you have a great background for any simple design. I want to make one with a simple silhouette of a tree! Just do a chalk transfer of any design, and paint it a dark color such as brown or black. Or, you could do like I did.

Part 2- Hand Drawn Definition Art

This method does NOT make a printed look, which I think I like. It is still neat and tidy without showing fear of being one of a kind.

1) Choose your word and definition. I chose thankful with the definition from the 1828 original Websters dictionary. The older language coupled with the fact that he wrote them from a Christian perspective gave me a definition that was true, meaningful, and that was not mind blowingly boring.

2) Write it up on the computer. This was actually the must time consuming part- it took me two hours, and I ended up finishing it by hand.

A few guidelines:

  • Find the definition you would like, then look up the word in a dictionary. You will want the dictionary as a guide for the art.
  • Keep it simple: but remember, it is art so take a few artistic allowances. The biggest allowance I took was to put the pronunciation key inside {} instead of ( ). Not, correct, but it looks more interesting.
  • Don’t do cursive or flowery fonts- it just will not look right.

Here is what I did:

I added  a few marks by pencil after it was printed, and decided I did not like the justice spacing so ended up cutting it up and spacing the letters regularly.
Transfer to your background using the chalk transfer method.
Use a sharpie to fill in the letters.
I display mine on the “antiqued” crate I store my cookbooks in, with a few turquoise flowers beneath to compliment the warm colors.

Have you been decorating for fall and Thanksgiving? I would love to hear about it.

Inspirational Link Up @ Dear Creatives


  1. LOVE! Just pinned. :-)

  2. Wow, never would have thought of this! Very cleaver – perhaps I will try it out. Thanks!

  3. Hey Debra thanks for posting this! We came across it in all the way from NYC and it was the best DIY we could find online for the Holidays! We posted it on our blog and we just wanted to say Thanks!


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